Chapter 42

Yoonjung stared at the green tape under her feet. Once she stepped across it, she would be on the stage. In front of her, her friends were acting in this imaginary stage.

Joonghyuk, who was acting as the main character’s father, was sitting in a steel chair. Instead of a newspaper, he was holding his script in one hand and pretending to scroll through the television channels with the other.

“Why isn’t that idiot coming back? It’s already eight,” he said casually.

As expected of him. He spoke his line flawlessly.

Minsung walked into the stage next. As the uncle of the main character, Minsung stumbled onto the stage with his hands in his gym pants.

“Jungsoo still isn’t back?” he asked.

The uncle was a jobless character. He was supposed to be the main reason why the main character rebelled in the story.

The man was just one of those characters that decided to give up on working and live with his own family. The two characters started arguing on stage for a little. Since nothing really happened in the play so far, they weren’t really being serious about it.

This cheery air in the play would soon be broken by the main character’s rebellion, an ascension to a climax, then end with the entire family talking it out with each other on the dining table.

‘Phew, I’m getting nervous,’ Yoonjung thought.

Miso was still looking pretty calm at this point.

This practice run wasn’t as serious as an actual dress rehearsal, but they were still acting out the entire thing. She couldn’t help but get a little nervous by this.

Around this point, as the scene was about to end, Minsung ended up making a small mistake. His tongue must’ve gotten twisted. That was fine. He would just need to continue from there.

But instead, Minsung spent a brief second staring at Miso nervously. The woman’s eye twitched wordlessly.

Yoonjung felt her heart beat. There was no stopping this run, since it was supposed to go like a real dress rehearsal. Minsung swallowed before finishing off his line quickly. With this, the scene was finished.

Minsung and Joonghyuk stepped away from the stage. Yoonjung glanced at Minsung. The poor boy was nervously glancing at Miso.

Next scene.

Geunseok, the main character, walked into the house with Taejoon and Iseul, his friends.

‘As I thought, he’s good.’ Yoonjung thought.

Geunseok plopped down on his chair, exhausted. He looked very natural doing it, too. Their conversation started. The scene was supposed to focus on the main character starting to feel conflicted because of his two friends.

Conflicted about traveling, that is. His friends wanted to travel to the beach in the weekend in secret. Geunseok was tempted, but he was feeling conflicted because he didn’t have the money for it, and he knew his father wouldn’t allow it.

“Come on, man. We don’t need to get permission at our age. Let’s just go.”

“Yeah, come on.”

Geunseok said ok for now, giving into the pressure. This much was fine. The scene ended pretty smoothly.

‘The problem is me,’ Yoonjung thought.

Yoonjung played Geunseok’s mother. She was supposed to be a very mean, overbearing woman. One that judged children purely based on their grades. She was supposed to be one of the bigger reasons why the main character’s relationship with his father worsened.

“Jungsoo,” she said, crossing the green line.

The air around her changed right then. Wasn’t it spring? It was supposed to be warm. But… why was it so cold around her? Was it because of Miso looking at her?

“Yes, mom,” Geunseok nervously responded.

He looked like a saddened child. Good. She should be able to match him pretty well. She was a senior, after all.

“Your midterm grades this semester… Why are they this bad?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I knew it’d be like this. From the very moment I saw you slacking. All of my friends’ kids are competing on the national level, but look at you. You’re just embarrassing me.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll do better in the final.”

“Jungsoo, do you think I’m saying this to save my own face? I’m saying this for you. Alright? Look at me. Scores are everything for a person. Your happiness in the future correlates directly to your scores now.”

Yoonjung tried to look incredibly satisfied by her own words. To try to look as annoying as possible. Now, it was Geunseok’s turn. The scene would end with Geunseok acting out of character under his mother’s gaze.

Suddenly, Geunseok’s eyes changed. He jumped out of his seat and charged towards her. This was in the plan, of course. He was supposed to shout at her. It was even in the script.

They’ve practiced for it.

But… this was way too different. The boy almost looked like he was going to run into her. His eyes were full of anger. Enough anger to make Yoonjung forget about the play for a second and step back with a flinch.

Geunseok started shouting. He was doing incredibly well. Yoonjung only managed to regain her senses when Geunseok started trying to signal her with his eyes.

Ah, she almost missed her line!

“Y-you dare speak out against your mother?!”

Ah, she screwed up. She looked like a mother that was afraid of her son, not one that had control over her son.

In any case, she stepped back off the stage. With that, the lights went off, and the scene got cleaned up. This was supposed to be the point where the scene changed to the ‘marketplace’.

“Ugh, I’m so dead,” Yoonjung muttered, stepping off.

Danmi patted her back reassuringly. This would’ve helped normally, except this time it didn’t. She could feel Miso glaring at her. That lady had way too scary of a gaze.

“Hah...”

“Cheer up, she’s just going to scold you at worst.”

“...”

That’s the scary part…

* * *

Daemyung stepped on stage with Dojin. They were to lighten the mood of the play as they passed by a store.

They were also going to start a fight with the main character, as two 40 year old men going out for a drink after work. In the scene, they would run into the main character smoking with his friends out on the streets.

‘We can do this.’

Frankly, Daemyung was surprised by the skill exhibited from his first-year friends. Yurim and Soyeon played their roles perfectly as the mother’s friends. Not only that, Taejoon and Iseul seemed natural during their performance as well.

Geunseok was exemplary, as usual. The only people who needed to do well were Daemyung and Dojin now.

The two exchanged glances. One mistake here, and they were as good as dead. Dojin was the first to step towards Geunseok, scolding the other boy for smoking. Daemyung’s role acted as support for Dojin’s. But when the time came for Taejoon to respond with, “just keep going on your merry way, misters”, the boy just stood there dumbly.

After a few seconds of awkward silence,

“Ugh, please! Just leave us alone!” Iseul shouted.

She took over for Taejoon instead, causing Taejoon’s expression to change into a slight frown.“You little bitch...”

Daemyung changed the “bastard” in his line to a “bitch” instead. Iseul nonchalantly hit back with Taejoon’s line. She must’ve memorized all of the scenes by herself.

The third scene came to an end, and the other characters all left the scene, save for Geunseok. As soon as Taejoon stepped outside the green line, he turned to look at Geunseok with distressed.

“Ah fuck.”

There were no better words to describe the situation for them at that moment.

* * *

Kindergarten.

After a few minutes of silence, Maru started to hear the joyous sound of laughing children again. Soojin seemed to handle everything on her own quite nicely. Maru peeked down at the first floor after playing with the finger dolls by himself for a while.

The kids were smiling again. Since they couldn’t continue with the puppet play, Soojin was playing with the kids with the dolls on her hands.

Maru couldn’t help but feel a little sorry. He messed up the entire play trying to go over the top. Soojin had explained to him that his audience would be children, too… He should’ve kept that in mind when performing.

Children are naive and oblivious. If you hid behind a door for a second then came out again, they would believe that you disappeared for a second. They understood everything at face value.

Of course they would be frightened if Maru roared loudly like that. He just completely ignored what would be considered appropriate and went with it.

Despite Soojin’s efforts, she was clearly having trouble handling 50 kids all at once. The teacher offered little relief, since the kids were just going straight for Soojin since she had the dolls.

Maru watched this for a second before looking back at the second floor. He remembered seeing something there a while ago…

There it was. In the corner of the floor was a fox mask. He put it on and stepped downstairs. Soojin smiled lightly as soon as she saw him and pointed.

“Look, there’s a bad fox over there.”

“Bad fox?”

The kids immediately responded.

“Mr. Fox is trying to hurt big sis Soojin. Big sis doesn’t like owies.”

From Maru’s perspective, it almost looked like Soojin was a kid herself. She really had a knack for being a kindergarten teacher. He had to wonder at this point what her real job was.

“Waaah!”

“Bad Mr. Fox!”

Soojin pointed at Maru with a sniffle. The kids all ran towards him, grabbed his pants, and started shaking.

“Don’t hurt her!”

“Bad Mr. Fox! Bad Mr. Fox!”

“Yah! Yah!”

These little twerps had a ridiculous amount of strength in their little bodies. Maru slowly made his way back to the room where the kids came from. He could play here, but the staircase behind him could be dangerous.

That was rule one of acting. Part of its purpose was self-satisfaction, but ultimately, it was a show for the audience. The audience here were the kids, and therefore, Maru would have to put them in the proper environment, for the most amount of entertainment.

“Mr. Fox is here to hurt. Fox! Fox!” Maru said.

He waded through the crowd of kids with a light voice. He couldn’t remember what foxes sounded like, so he just said “fox fox”, but the kids seemed to enjoy that even more.

“Why would a fox go fox fox? Hehehe.”

“Then what does the fox say?”

“Eh? I don’t know.”

“Let’s just say it says fox fox then.”

Maru picked up the talking kid and shook the boy lightly. The kid seemed nervous for a second, but immediately burst into laughter.

“Me too! Me too!”

“Me tooo!”

The kids crowded all over him, completely forgetting that he was supposed to be a bad fox. Maru turned to look at Soojin through his mask. The woman was giving him a big thumbs up with a smile.

* * *

“Do you really want to go play with your friends that much?”

“No, I don’t.”

“If you really want to, just go. Make sure to call every day though.”

“...Dad.”

Joonghyuk stood up from his seat and left the stage. Yoonjung, the mother, looked at Geunseok coldly before leaving herself. Geunseok gripped the spoon in his hand tightly for a second, before standing up with a sigh.

With that, the play was over. The actors came in one by one through the green line to prepare for the curtain call. The side characters were the first to bow to the audience. Once everyone else was done, Geunseok would take his place in the center.

The eleven actors grabbed each other’s hands, standing side by side, and bowed. With that, the run was over.

“What a shitshow,” Miso blurted, “a total shitshow.”

“.......”

“I knew things would be like this when you never bothered to do anything more than reading the damn script. Do you only practice when I’m around?”

No one could answer that. Of course they all practiced in their own time and of course they tried to read the script whenever they could. But at this point, anything they say would come off as nothing but excuses.

Yoonjung looked over at the kids next to her. They were all sighing dejectedly.

“Second years,” Miso called out.

“Yes!”

Yoonjung and Minsung were the loudest of the group. Probably because they were the ones that made the mistakes.

“You guys were average. Perfectly average. Is that enough for you, though? You guys did even worse than the first years.”

Miso glared.

Yoonjung didn’t dare look up. She completely fumbled on stage.

“Lee Yoonjung!”

“Yes!”

“Does it make sense for Jungsoo’s mom to flinch like that in front of her son?”

“No.”

“Oh, so you knew that, but you still thought it would be a good idea to flinch? Unless… don’t tell me that you were intimidated by a first year?”

“......”

“You have to get into character. You need to become an embittered woman that only thinks of her son as an advertisement for herself. You get it?”

“Yes.”

“You’re only good at responding quickly, aren’t you?”

Miso turned.

“Minsung.”

“Yes.”

“Were your lines gum or something? You were chewing on it on stage for some time.”

“I’m sorry. ”

“You think you’ll be able to apologize to the audience if you make the same mistake?”

She clicked her tongue afterwards. When Yoonjung glanced sideways, she noticed Minsung gritting his teeth.

Miso turned to look at the first years.

“Daemyung.”

“Yes.”

Daemyung responded nervously. Yoonjung recalled seeing the boy carry on the play pretty well with Iseul before.

“Good job. The worst thing that can happen during a play is for the audience to realize that the actor made a mistake. It’s also the most embarrassing thing for an actor to experience. You did well though. Iseul, you too. You need to step in immediately the moment you notice the idiot next to you makes a mistake. Never let the play come to a pause. Always remember, the show must go on. Understood?”

“Yes!”

“Alright, we’re going to get dinner before doing this again. I’m going light on you guys since this was your first run. But be prepared to be scolded a lot if you make a mistake next time.”

Miso’s eyes narrowed as she scanned the club.

Yoonjung avoided the woman’s gaze. Honestly, this teacher was so scary…

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